With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: 

MERRIMACK, N.H. – An Air Force veteran asked Pete Buttigieg at the American Legion hall here whether he learned any special lessons during his deployment to Afghanistan as a Naval reservist.

“Being in charge is not about being exalted,” answered the 38-year-old Democratic presidential candidate. “I was a pretty junior officer. I was just a lieutenant. But I recognized that the most important thing I could do was to do right by the enlisted people who were calling me ‘sir.’ It’s that basic principle that officers eat last when you’re at chow. And I wish that we had a president who understood that the position at the top of the org chart should also be the position of greatest humility about your need to do right by everybody around you.”

Buttigieg’s nod to the virtue of modesty was the single biggest applause line during his Thursday afternoon town hall meeting, which filled the venue to capacity. It offered a stark contrast to the anything-but-humble victory lap that President Trump took at the White House earlier in the afternoon to celebrate being acquitted by the Senate.

A dozen different voters I interviewed after Buttigieg’s event brought up the moment – including people who are torn between him and Joe Biden, him and Bernie Sanders, him and Elizabeth Warren, as well as him and Amy Klobuchar. These conversations offered a window into Buttigieg’s emergence, ahead of next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, as the kind of unity candidate who defies the conventional lanes that pundits try to force candidates into.

Polling shows that Buttigieg has been surging here since his better-than-expected finish in the Iowa caucuses, where he’s neck-and-neck with Sanders and an official winner has not been declared. 

A nightly tracking poll of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire by Suffolk University, in partnership with the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV, has shown the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., gaining ground here every night since Monday. Sanders led last night with 24 percent, followed by Buttigieg with 23 percent (up four points from the night before). The pollsters say Buttigieg’s gains are coming from Biden and Warren. Warren garnered 13 percent and Biden got 11 percent in the latest poll. Everyone else was in single digits. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.

A Monmouth University poll released Thursday puts Sanders in the lead with 24 percent among likely primary voters, followed by Buttigieg at 20 percent, Biden at 17 percent, Warren at 13 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. Half of all respondents said they’re not firmly decided and could still change their minds. The margin of error is also 4.4 percent. 

William Voss, an independent who lives here and voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary four years ago, saw Biden on Tuesday, Warren on Wednesday and Buttigieg on Thursday. He said he’ll watch the Democratic debate on Friday night in Manchester before making a final decision over the weekend. “Pete hadn’t really been on my list until he greatly surprised me in Iowa,” Voss said. “Before Iowa, I perceived him as competing for vice president. Now I’m paying attention to him.”

Steve Shaw, 76, is a liberal who backed Sanders four years ago when he beat Clinton in the state’s Democratic primary by 22 points. He’s been trying to decide between supporting the independent senator from Vermont again or breaking for Warren, who represents the neighboring state of Massachusetts in the Senate. But Buttigieg has now entered the mix. “Iowa makes him more credible,” said Shaw, a retired state employee who lives in Concord. “He’s got a lot of courage in having a husband, too.”

Shaw said he wants to support a candidate who feels empathy for the less fortunate, who does not condescend to regular people and who can think quickly on their feet. After the town hall, Shaw gave Buttigieg high marks for all three criteria and said the comments about eating only after his subordinates were “especially terrific.”

“In that iconic painting by Edvard Munch called ‘The Scream,’ there are two theories as to what the figure is doing,” he explained. “Is she screaming for herself? Or is she screaming because she hears someone else screaming? In politics, you’re either showing empathy or you’re showing selfishness. There’s far too much selfishness and greed, especially from a president who is Robespierre with a comb-over. That’s why we’re so badly in need of empathy.”

Independents can cast ballots in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. Without a real contest on the Republican side, that means there will likely be many more moderate-minded voters than four years ago. Bill Mauser, 77, is an independent who voted for John Kasich, the-then Ohio governor, in the GOP primary four years ago. He backed Clinton in the general, although he said it was so tough to decide between her and Trump that he didn’t make up his mind until he was standing in the voting booth. Now he’s trying to decide between Buttigieg and Klobuchar, the three-term senior senator from Minnesota.

“Amy is experienced, coming as she does from the Washington milieu, so she’s got the chops and she’s shown she’s strong enough to stand up to the opposition for what she believes in,” said Mauser, who lives in Merrimack and now enjoys bowling after a career in software development. He served four years on active duty in the Navy and 23 more in the reserves. “Pete is bright, articulate and a veteran, which is very good. The thing is that whoever wins is going to end up in a pit, and then in a brawl, with Donald J. Trump. He’s a no-holds-barred eye-gouger, so we need to pick someone with that in mind.”

In Iowa, promising generational change without an ideological edge, Buttigieg demonstrated an ability to build a broad coalition that transcends the traditional moderate vs. liberal “lanes” that pundits try to force candidates into. Preliminary entrance polls there showed that he tied for first among self-identified moderates (with Biden) and finished second among self-identified liberals (behind Sanders). He led among women and finished a close second among men. He was second among 17-to-29 and 30-to-44-year-olds, and he won among 45-to-64-year-olds. He fared just as well in rural parts of the state as the suburbs and cities over 50,000. Buttigieg even managed to get almost the same level of support among non-college graduates as those who earned degrees.

To be sure, Buttigieg continues to struggle to make inroads with black voters. This remains a challenge to his campaign in South Carolina and across the Southern states that vote on Super Tuesday. Biden is counting on black voters to offer a firewall, and the former vice president has leaned in on the argument that he’s the candidate most likely to defeat Trump in November.

Dave and Alicia Hennessey, of Pelham, went to see Biden in Nashua on Tuesday and Buttigieg in Merrimack on Thursday. They both supported Clinton four years ago. Alicia, who retired from teaching at a computer training school, has decided to go for Buttigieg over Biden. “He’s just so reasonable: on health care, on student debt, on the environment,” the 70-year-old said. “I knocked on a lot of doors for Hillary. Bernie and Elizabeth are just too radical. …  I think Amy would have done a lot better if Pete wasn’t in it.”

Dave, a Vietnam veteran who retired last year from the real estate business, remains torn between Biden and Buttigieg. “The big issue is electability,” he said. “We’ve got to get Trump out of there. That’s priority one. While I like Pete – he’s smart and articulate – Joe is familiar, like an old pair of shoes. But he’s nowhere near the speaker that Pete is. And I’m concerned about his age. I’m 73, and I’ve lost a step or two. … But I’m still concerned about so many morons out there being bigoted [about Buttigieg’s sexuality]. … Electability is job one. … I think it’s impressive he was able to do well, but I think the Iowa caucuses are so stupid and dumb.”

Biden’s struggles in Iowa have eroded his electability pitch somewhat, a point Buttigieg has been eager to make during a media blitz in recent days. Yesterday alone, Buttigieg appeared on ABC’s “The View,” CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and finished the night with a CNN town hall moderated by Chris Cuomo. He even talked to TMZ. “If your focus is on electability,” Buttigieg told the gossip site, “the best way, I think, to demonstrate you’re a candidate who can win is to go win.” In another sign that Buttigieg has arrived, the Trump campaign sent out an email attacking him last night.

Tonight’s debate on ABC looms as a pivotal test for Buttigieg. Because he’s rising, he faces almost certain attacks from all directions. Biden has telegraphed a few hits in recent days. Klobuchar did little during a previous debate to hide her resentment that Buttigieg is doing better than she. Warren’s manager accused one of Buttigieg’s strategists of coordinating in plain sight with an allied super PAC, something that the campaign and the group deny. She’s said that a woman with his same background would not have gotten as far.

Buttigieg was widely viewed as a winner of the November debate, but he stumbled badly in the December debate as he struggled to respond to criticism over raising money in a Napa Valley wine cave. He took a hit in the polls after that. 

The former mayor, who has shifted more toward the middle over the last year, benefitted during the January debate from the squabbling between Sanders and Warren on the left over whether the Vermont senator told his Massachusetts colleague during a private dinner that a woman cannot win the presidency. Sanders vigorously denied it. Interviews on the ground over the last few weeks suggest that some men who had been intrigued by Warren and attracted to her detailed plans were turned off by what they perceived as her playing the gender card.

A few weeks ago, Warren was pitching herself for this role of unity candidate. Her team hoped she’d come out of Iowa stronger than she did, counting on a much-ballyhooed field program that didn’t deliver as promised. They thought she could then sell herself in New Hampshire as both the more pragmatic alternative to Sanders and the more progressive alternative to Biden. Instead, after Warren’s distant third-place finish, Buttigieg is slipping into that sweet spot.

Buttigieg said in Merrimack that his campaign had been “absolutely electrified … by the extraordinary validation of this campaign’s vision that we had in Iowa on Monday.” He announced yesterday that he’s raised $2.73 million and attracted 22,636 donors since caucus night, with an average of $42. “I’m also mindful and humbled by the fact that New Hampshire is New Hampshire,” he concluded. “And New Hampshire is not the kind of place to let Iowa or anybody else tell you what to do!”

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT 2020:

-- The latest on the Iowa mess: The state Democratic Party last night said it has now released all the results, showing the tightest of races between Buttigieg and Sanders. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg held a narrow lead of 26.2 percent in state delegate equivalents, the traditional metric by which an Iowa winner has been determined. Sanders had 26.1 percent. With continuing confusion and questions about the technical issues, no official winner has been declared by the party or news outlets like the Associated Press. Sanders led in the popular vote by roughly 6,000 votes in the first round and about 2,500 in the second round.  

Sanders declared victory in a news conference at his New Hampshire headquarters in Manchester on Thursday afternoon. “When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory,” he said. “Who inches ahead in the end is meaningless,” Sanders added, referring to the delegate count.

His comments came less than an hour after Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called for a recanvass of the results from the caucuses. “The state party gave no indication it planned to honor Perez’s demand, instead issuing a statement noting that it is the campaigns that are entitled to request a recanvass. None has so far made such a request, and Sanders and Buttigieg indicated Thursday they would not,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. “A recanvass would mean a hand audit of the math worksheets and reporting forms that are completed on caucus night at each of the more than 1,750 precincts across the state. It would differ from a full recount, which involves a hand count of each of the ‘presidential preference cards’ completed by caucus-goers.”

-- Why Buttigieg decided to declare victory on Monday night: “Unlike a typical election, where ballot choices are secret, the various campaigns received real-time reports of turnout and preference from the state’s 1,681 precincts. The numbers they reported back to Buttigieg in his suite at a downtown Des Moines Marriott cheered everyone in the room,” Michael Scherer, Holly Bailey, Sean Sullivan and Annie Linskey report in a meaty new ticktock. “The political wordsmith with degrees from Oxford and Harvard needed a win in Iowa to propel his campaign forward, so he decided to play a word game: He would declare himself ‘victorious’ without defining what victory meant. His staff uniformly agreed, even though they knew he still might not finish first in the delegate count. ‘It means victorious over a lot of things — victorious because a year ago, it was just four staffers, victorious in terms of overperforming the expectations, and victorious in that we beat a crop of senators and a former vice president,’ said one of the advisers in the room.”

-- Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman who has been waging a primary challenge to Trump from his right, ended his long-shot bid for the Republican nomination during an interview on CNN this morning. (Amy Wang)

-- Just five days before the New Hampshire primary, Biden's bus was parked in front of the castle-themed Radisson hotel where he's been staying in Nashua. But the candidate was nowhere to be found. Matt Viser, Cleve Wootson and Michael Scherer report: “Biden spent Thursday gathered with his top advisers at his home in Wilmington, Del., seeking a reset and perhaps a last-ditch effort to save his candidacy, beginning with a debate Friday night. He held no public events. … In one troublesome sign for the financially strapped campaign, it canceled nearly $150,000 in television ads in South Carolina, which votes Feb. 29, and moved the spending to Nevada, whose Feb. 22 contest follows New Hampshire’s. The move seemed to acknowledge that Biden’s campaign cannot sustain a continued run of bad news. ... Some of Biden’s supporters were growing agitated with the campaign, struggling to point to any one piece of it that has been successful. His organizing operation struggled in Iowa, his fundraising numbers have never been impressive, and his message is often muddled.

One person close to the campaign … expects a dramatic reshuffling of his operation if Biden does not show improvement in New Hampshire. Biden has rarely fired staffers during his decades-long career, so any changes would probably mean internal shifting of responsibilities. Even before then, disputes have emerged among some of his top advisers, who have generally split between an older group that has been with Biden for decades, and a younger group that, while loyal, has joined his staff more recently. There have been disagreements since the start of the campaign over how much to focus on the middle-class economic message that has defined much of Biden’s career and how much to center his message on President Trump.”

-- Dan Balz’s take: “Joe Biden’s campaign has a problem, and it begins with the candidate.”

-- Andrew Yang fired dozens of staffers after his abysmal finish in Iowa. From Politico: “Among those dismissed were the national political and policy directors of the campaign, as well as the deputy national political director — all senior level positions. The people who were fired worked across Yang’s organization, from his headquarters in New York to the now-disbanded Iowa operation. ... According to FEC reports released last week, the Yang campaign had more than 230 people on staff.”

-- A half-dozen women of color left Warren’s Nevada campaign, weeks before the state’s caucuses, complaining of a toxic work environment in which minorities felt tokenized. From Politico: “‘There was definitely something wrong with the culture,’ said Megan Lewis, a field organizer who joined the campaign in May and departed in December. ‘I filed a complaint with HR, but the follow-up I received left me feeling as though I needed to make myself smaller or change who I was to fit into the office culture.’ Another recently departed staffer, also a field organizer, granted anonymity because she feared reprisal, echoed that sentiment. ‘I felt like a problem — like I was there to literally bring color into the space but not the knowledge and voice that comes with it,’ she said in an interview. … [Warren] has spent just 12 days there, another factor that dispirited the state’s staff. This week, her campaign also scaled back its television ads in the state by about $140,000.” 

-- Warren's newest ad, airing in heavy rotation on TV here, features an old clip of Barack Obama praising her in the Rose Garden for her work creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Biden is also running a commercial with old footage of Obama talking him up. The former president has not endorsed his running mate. (Watch here.)

-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) met privately with Obama as the deadline for him to file for Senate looms. The former presidential candidate is a sought-after recruit to challenge Republican Sen. Steve Daines. (Politico)

-- “Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign plagiarized portions of its plans for maternal health, LGBTQ equality, the economy, tax policy, infrastructure, and mental health from research publications, media outlets, and a number of nonprofit, educational, and policy groups,” the Intercept reports. “[E]xact passages from at least eight Bloomberg plans or accompanying fact sheets were direct copies of material from media outlets including CNN, Time, and CBS, a research center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the American Medical Association, Everytown for Gun Safety, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, and other organizations. The plagiarized sections ranged in length from entire paragraphs to individual sentences and fragments in documents that were between five and 14 pages long. … By Thursday morning [after a press inquiry], one of the plans was completely taken down, while others were changed. … The Bloomberg campaign did not deny the plagiarism. In a statement, the campaign said, ‘Much of what you flagged were fact sheets that went out via MailChimp’ — an online newsletter service — ‘which doesn’t support footnote formatting.’”

The Daily 202's BIG IDEA> Get James' insight into Washington every weekday on your smart speaker or favorite podcast player.
Subscribe on Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

IMPEACHMENT FALLOUT:

-- “Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a National Security Council aide who testified during House Democrats’ impeachment hearings — will be informed in the coming days, likely on Friday, by administration officials that he is being reassigned to a position at the Defense Department, taking a key figure from the investigation out of the White House,” Josh Dawsey, Bob Costa and Greg Miller report. “Vindman had already informed senior officials at the NSC that he intended to take an early exit from his assignment and leave his post by the end of the month … but Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him … Trump has complained about Vindman in private, mocking the way he spoke [and] wore his uniform … He has discussed with aides removing other national security officials who testified or cooperated with House Democrats, with Trump calling them disloyal and asking whether he should further cull his national security staff after impeachment. He remains incensed that so many people in his administration testified last year … 

“Additionally, Trump sees it as valuable to frame previous investigations as witch hunts because he expects more probes, [informal adviser Jason] Miller and other Trump allies said, and the president has told his aides that Democrats will continue to investigate his finances, his Cabinet officials and his interactions with foreign leaders. … Trump has been convinced by polling and rallies in recent months that relentlessly attacking [Nancy] Pelosi is key to his reelection success, and he has shown flashes of anger when discussing her … Republican lawmakers and Trump have also discussed ways to exact revenge on [Adam] Schiff for his leading role in the president’s impeachment…”

-- Trump celebrated his acquittal yesterday afternoon with an angry, raw and vindictive 62-minute rant. David Nakamura reports: “He spoke without a teleprompter. He cursed in the East Room. He called the House speaker a ‘horrible person.’ He lorded his power over a room full of deferential Republicans. He mocked a former GOP presidential nominee and his 2016 Democratic rival. He played the victim again and again. … Trump was ... aggrieved — reflecting the id of a president who has seethed for months with rage against his enemies. This was the State of Trump. … ‘We’ve been going through this now for over three years,’ [he said.] ‘It was evil. It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars.’ ...

“Trump offered no words of regret, insisting, as he has repeatedly, that he did nothing wrong... The only apology he offered was to his own family, for the ‘phony, rotten’ ordeal that they were put through … Instead, Trump vented … ‘You could be George Washington, you could have just won the war, and they’d say, ‘Let’s get him out of office,’’ Trump said of his Democratic rivals. ‘They’re vicious as hell.’ … At one point, he held up a copy of Thursday’s Washington Post with the headline, ‘Trump acquitted,’ and said he might have it framed. … He was rewarded with a kiss from the first lady and a hug from his eldest daughter, Ivanka, a senior White House adviser. … 

“The White House opened the East Room event to the press corps, and scores of reporters crammed into tight spaces behind the seats for the guests. About an hour before the president was due to start speaking, aides scrambled to rearrange the lectern placement to allow Trump to enter from Cross Hall — producing a dramatic television shot that has traditionally lent gravitas and a presidential air to official statements. (President Barack Obama used that angle to announce the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.) ... ‘It’s all bullshit,’ the president said of the 17-month special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and his campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives.”

-- Trump also took aim at Hunter Biden, calling him “a son that made no money [and] got thrown out of the military” before launching into an attack on the younger Biden’s business activities in Ukraine, China and elsewhere. (Felicia Sonmez)

-- The president's people at the Treasury Department quickly responded to requests from GOP senators for highly sensitive and closely held financial records about Hunter Biden and his associates, as part of the newly launched Republican inquiry into his business affairs. The Treasury Department still refuses to turn over the president's tax returns, which Congress is legally entitled to review. (Yahoo News

-- Meanwhile, Ukraine complained the Trump administration is still holding up $30 million of arms and ammunition. Officials said they haven’t been able to get any answers from the U.S. government about why the deals haven’t been approved in more than a year. (BuzzFeed News)

-- Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts. David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report: “Those charges, compiled here for the first time, show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government. When Trump visits his clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., and Bedminster, N.J., the service needs space to post guards and store equipment. Trump’s company says it charges only minimal fees. But Secret Service records do not show that. At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate, $396.15, dozens more times in 2018, according to documents from Trump’s visits.

And at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the Secret Service was charged $17,000 a month to use a three-bedroom cottage on the property, an unusually high rent for homes in that area, according to receipts from 2017. Trump’s company billed the government even for days when Trump wasn’t there. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage.”

-- Pelosi chided Trump for his behavior, as she defended her decision to tear up a copy of his State of the Union address. Toluse Olorunnipa and Mike DeBonis report: “During a day that began with the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump questioned the religious sincerity of Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted Wednesday to convict the president on a charge of abuse of power. Pelosi, a Catholic, responded by saying Trump was ignorant about religion. … Despite the negativity, both Trump and Pelosi used their remarks to make brief nods to the idea of working on bipartisan issues like infrastructure and health care. But such olive branches were dwarfed by a forest of vindictiveness, and continued political battle appeared to be the more likely path forward. ... 'He’s impeached forever, no matter what he says,’ Pelosi said. ‘You’re never getting rid of that scar.’”

-- A Utah state representative called for a vote to censure Romney after he voted to convict the president on abuse of power. The sponsor of the bill, GOP Rep. Phil Lyman, said he didn’t want Utah’s relationship with Trump to be “damaged” by Romney’s actions. (KSL

-- Trump’s trial may be over, but he and Chief Justice John Roberts aren’t done with each other. Robert Barnes reports: “Currently, the chief justice is either writing or reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision on whether Trump acted within his power to end the program ­protecting young immigrant ‘dreamers’ from deportation. A decision could come at any time before the court’s term concludes at the end of June. Next month, Roberts will call the court to order to consider whether Trump may shield his personal financial information from a congressional committee and a New York prosecutor each investigating matters beyond the president’s impeachment.”

-- Commentary from The Post’s opinion page: 

  • Dana Milbank: “Meet the new Trump, same as the old Trump.”
  • Catherine Rampell: “Worried Trump might weaponize the presidency? He already has, many times.”
  • Michael Gerson: “Trump’s politicization of the National Prayer Breakfast is unholy and immoral.”
  • Henry Olsen: “Trump’s address on his acquittal showcases why people hate him. And love him.”
  • Max Boot: “The contrast between Romney and [Marco] Rubio shows how low the GOP has sunk.”

-- A bipartisan report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Obama administration mounted an insufficient response to Russia’s election interference in 2016. But it concludes these failures were “understandable” because the government lacked information and had limited policy options at the time. Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report: “The panel recommended that the government develop specific responses to foreign influence campaigns to better safeguard against future incursions and integrate those efforts across agencies and with the governments of other countries contending with Russian aggression. Its report also said the president must be more direct with the American public about the nature of such threats, and ‘separate himself or herself from political considerations’ when handling these issues. … 

Political concerns, the report found, played an influential role in the Obama administration’s ‘tempered’ response to the Russian threat, as officials’ fears about stoking a politically charged election season with vocal alerts about Russia’s activity created a snowball effect, ultimately allowing the Russian campaign to proliferate relatively unchecked. … Internally, officials recalled, there was little or no discussion about a ‘pre-election response,’ as the government was ‘concerned about escalation’ with Moscow. Officials ‘did not know the full range of Moscow’s capabilities and were fearful that the Russians might attempt to affect electoral infrastructure,’ the report states. So the response stuck mostly to warnings of largely unspecified ‘consequences,’ communicated by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin…” (Read the full 54-page report here.)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- “A Chinese doctor who was silenced by police for trying to share news about the new coronavirus long before Chinese health authorities disclosed its full threat died after coming down with the illness, a hospital statement said, triggering an outpouring of anger online toward the ruling Communist Party,” Gerry Shih reports from Hangzhou, China: “Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, became a national hero and symbol of the Chinese government’s systemic failings last month. Li had tried to warn his medical school classmates Dec. 30 about the existence of a contagious new virus that resembled the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Word began to spread in China thanks to Li, but his posts were censored, and he was detained Jan. 1 for ‘rumor-mongering.’ …

Li was released from detention Jan. 3 after signing a police document admitting that he committed an illegal act by making ‘untrue statements’ on social media and promising that he would ‘earnestly reflect’ on his mistakes. After they detained Li, Wuhan police appeared on Chinese state television to warn the public about the dangers of spreading rumors. In a coordinated state media push that day, they urged Internet users across the country to not believe online rumors and help build a ‘clear and bright cyberspace.’

Days after he was released the first week of January, Li returned to work receiving patients who were beginning to flood into Wuhan’s hospitals. He began coughing Jan. 10, he later recalled. This past Saturday, three weeks after he checked himself into his hospital, he told his social media followers that he had finally been tested: He was indeed infected by the coronavirus. As he spent his final days in Wuhan Central’s intensive-care unit, Li began publicly sharing how he sought to warn friends about the new virus, his ordeal with the police and his fight with the illness.

He revealed that he lived with a pregnant wife and young child, and had quickly quarantined himself as soon as he suspected he was infected. His mother and father were now hospitalized for fever, he said without disclosing whether they — or his wife and child — contracted the coronavirus. … As word of Li’s death trickled out Thursday night, his followers left messages on his Weibo account [their version of Twitter] pleading in vain for him to post one last update. Hours after his death was confirmed, Chinese users began repeating a literary verse to express their gratitude for a man they felt their country did not deserve. ‘He who holds the firewood for the masses,’ they wrote, ‘is the one who freezes to death in wind and snow.’”

-- Sadly, the regime in Beijing has not learned its lesson: After Li’s death, Communist Party leaders are starting to censor the outpouring of condolences on social media. CNBC reports that the government appears to be cracking down on posts that call Li a “hero” and others that reference the lyrics from "Les Miserables" song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Weibo is also blocking posts that include the hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech.

-- Luckily, we live in a country where I can write this: Li is a hero. He did exactly what a good doctor is supposed to do. His pregnant wife, young child and his parents – and frankly all Chinese people who want the freedom of speech we so often take for granted – will be in my prayers this weekend.

-- There are now more than 31,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in mainland China. More than 630 of Li's countrymen have now died from the coronavirus, and the number could be far higher. More foreigners continue being evacuated from the area where the outbreak began. Two U.S. planes carrying more than 300 passengers flew out of Wuhan last night. (Simon Denyer, Karin Brulliard, Adam Taylor, Marisa Iati, Carol Morello)

-- U.S. evacuees quarantined on military bases are resorting to Zumba, stairwell races and accounting classes to try and keep some sense of normalcy. William Wan, Lena H. Sun and Neena Satija report: “Twice a day, the evacuees have their temperatures checked by medical staff in protective gear. They are forbidden to stray from a small patch of land on a base filled with armed military personnel. So they have found creative ways of filling the days. ‘When people hear quarantine, they think of the zombie apocalypse, movies like ‘World War Z,’’ said Matthew McCoy, 55, another evacuee. ‘But the reality is it’s what you make of it.’”

-- The number of visitors coming to the U.S. from China could drop by as much as 28 percent this year, according to a new report examining the virus’s impact on the country’s tourism industry. (Lori Aratani)

-- Another 41 people tested positive for coronavirus on board a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan. A total of 61 passengers and crew have been diagnosed with the virus. Only 273 of the 3,711 people aboard have been tested so far. (Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi

-- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his nation’s parliament that the Olympic Games will go on as planned this summer despite the virus. (Taylor)

-- The National Symphony Orchestra canceled its tour to China, the homeland of its principal clarinetist. (Peggy McGlone

-- The virus will likely acquire a new, more easily communicated name in the coming days. It could be a variant of SARS, which scientists have described as a “cousin” of the virus. (Joel Achenbach)

-- The extended shutdown of Chinese factories from the outbreak is already upending supply chains, as manufacturers begin to feel the squeeze from shortages of material and travel restrictions on staff. Michael Tatarski reports: “New restrictions within China could further stress production lines. This week, officials in Zhejiang province announced that only one person per household would be allowed to leave home every two days for necessities. This includes three districts of the city of Hangzhou, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba. … Although China has largely weathered Trump’s trade war, many economists expect its annual growth to slump to below 4 percent for the first quarter as services halt and consumers avoid going out due to contagion fears.”

-- A federal judge ordered the administration to end visa processing delays for hundreds of Afghan and Iraqi nationals who worked for American war-fighters. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington, D.C., granted class-action status to all applicants whose visa requests have been pending for more than nine months — a deadline set by statute — and followed a September opinion in which the judge called the government’s justification for delays ‘tortured and untenable.’”

 -- Venezuelan authorities rounded up U.S. oil executives held under house arrest in Caracas and moved them to a prison after Trump invited opposition leader Juan Guaidó to the White House. The six Citgo employees have been detained since 2017 without a trial. (WSJ)

-- Russia is the clear winner from the U.S. embargo on Venezuelan oil. Anthony Faiola and Karen DeYoung report: “In the year since the Trump administration declared what amounted to economic war against the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro — an oil embargo that cut it off from its biggest petroleum buyer, the United States — the move has yielded some clear losers, including U.S. investors now shut out of the market. … U.S. officials, oil industry insiders and analysts say secret deals between Moscow and Caracas to produce, transport and sell oil to other markets have become a cash cow for Russia that is earning its state-controlled enterprises an estimated $120 million a month.” 

-- Canada’s oil bust left thousands of abandoned wells behind, and there’s not enough money for a cleanup. (Amanda Coletta)

-- Someone filled an Indian town’s well with alcohol, and now beer is pouring out of people’s taps. (CNN)

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULDN'T BE OVERSHADOWED:

-- Bumblebee populations in North America and Europe have plummeted as a result of extreme temperatures. Chris Mooney reports on a new study in the journal Science: “The number of areas populated by bumblebees has fallen 46 percent in North America and 17 percent in Europe, and the new research found that regions with sharp bee declines also experienced strong variations in climate — and especially higher temperatures and worse heat waves. It’s yet another major piece of bad news for bee populations. Declining colonies of commercial honeybees have been blamed on a strange phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder but also probably spring from a bevy of other causes. Now, the new research suggests that bumblebees in the wild are suffering, too. ‘Where temperatures are getting more extreme, bees tend to be disappearing more often,’ said Peter Soroye, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and one of the study’s authors.

The loss of bumblebee populations is alarming because they play a central role in pollinating many plants, including key crops such as tomatoes and cranberries. … The study, which Soroye conducted with colleagues from the University of Ottawa and University College London, compared the observed locations for 66 species of bumblebees between 1901 and 1974 with places where they could be found between 2000 and 2014. They found that nearly half of all regions in North America where bumblebees had been recorded in the earlier period no longer registered bees in the later period. 

It’s unclear whether the bees might recover. Franklin’s bumblebee is a species once found in a narrow region where California and Oregon meet. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed an endangered-species listing for the bee but noted that the listing may not actually happen because it’s unclear whether there are any bees left to protect. … Unlike many other insects, bumblebees are especially sensitive to temperature. Their large, hair-covered bodies give them an ability to internally heat up by flapping their wings at different speeds. But that also makes them vulnerable in hot weather.”

-- Another red flag: Just days after the earth saw its warmest January on record, Antarctica has broken its warmest temperature ever recorded,” Matthew Cappucci reports. “A reading of 65 degrees was taken at Esperanza Base along Antarctica’s Trinity Peninsula on Thursday, making it the ordinarily frigid continent’s highest measured temperature in history.”

-- Trump will auction the right to drill and graze in areas of southern Utah that were previously protected as two national monuments. Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin report: “The decision comes more than two years after Trump dramatically cut the size of the monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and is likely to intensify a legal fight over the contested sites. The expanses of wind-swept badlands, narrow slot canyons and towering rock formations are sacred to several Native American nations and prized by scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. Bears Ears contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts and rare rock art. In the rock layers of Grand Staircase, researchers have unearthed 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils. But the lands also harbor significant amounts of oil, gas and coal that the administration hopes to develop, as well as grazing land valued by local ranchers. The earliest the government could approve new mining claims and other kinds of development is Oct. 1, because of language Congress adopted in a spending bill.”

-- Trump kept a controversial pesticide on the market. Now its biggest manufacturer is discontinuing it. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “The main manufacturer of a pesticide used for decades on a wide array of crops, including strawberries, corn and citrus, said Thursday it will stop making the product, which some scientists have said is linked to neurological problems in children. Corteva Agriscience, the nation’s largest producer of chlorpyrifos, said the decision was driven by financial considerations, not safety concerns. … The Trump administration has refused to ban the pesticide, arguing that the science linking chlorpyrifos to health problems, such as neurological impacts in children and respiratory problems in adults, remains unresolved and in need of further study.” 

-- “The U.S. economy added 225,000 jobs in January, a surprising sign of continued strength for the economy,” Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long report. “The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.6 percent, mostly due to more people rejoining the labor force. The jobless rate remains near a 50-year low.”

-- GOP senators are facing a new loyalty test: Whether to approve Trump’s controversial Federal Reserve nominee Judy Shelton. (Heather Long and Erica Werner

-- The House passed a bill to rewrite labor laws and strengthen unions. Eli Rosenberg reports: “The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grant some hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have. It would also weaken ‘right-to-work’ laws in 27 states that allow employees to forgo participating in and paying dues to unions.” 

-- Virginia will probably become the first Southern state to ban LGBT discrimination. Laura Vozzella reports: “Sweeping LGBT rights legislation that bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations sailed out of the Virginia Senate and House on bipartisan votes Thursday. … The Senate and House bills have to cross over to the opposite chamber and win passage again before Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who requested the legislation, can sign them into law. But those steps were seen as technicalities by advocates cheering what they regard as landmark human rights legislation.”

-- Trump is ramping up border-wall construction ahead of the 2020 election. Nick Miroff and Adrian Blanco report: The Post “has obtained detailed U.S. government data about Trump’s border-wall project, its construction progress and contracts for each segment of the structure. The data shows the Trump administration is far from delivering on the president’s promise to finish more than 500 miles of new barriers by early next year. … [Still], the Trump administration is installing a structure far more formidable than anything previously in place along the border. The new structure has steel bollards, anchored in concrete, that reach 18 to 30 feet in height and will have lighting, cameras, sensors and improved roads to allow U.S. agents to respond quickly along an expanded ‘enforcement zone.’

“Nearly all of the new fencing the Trump administration has built so far is considered ‘replacement’ fencing, swapping out smaller, older vehicle barriers for a more elaborate — and costly — ‘border wall system.’ The administration has been slower to build new barriers where none currently exist, primarily because those spans require the acquisition of private land. Even with the slated construction goals, most of the southern border will not have a man-made barrier. … Department of Homeland Security officials have tried to lower expectations, saying they will have 450 miles completed or ‘under construction’ by the end of the year.”

-- Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old accused of killing 22 people and injuring dozens more during a rampage at an El Paso Walmart last August, was indicted on 90 federal charges, including dozens of counts of hate crimes. (Robert Moore and Mark Berman)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump used a curse word while giving a nationally televised post-impeachment speech in the East Room, and only one network actually used the word in the closed captions:

Here’s how many times that word has been used in the White House: 

No media outlet has called a winner in Iowa, but Yang credited Sanders over Buttigieg:

And Stephen Colbert began questioning all of Iowa’s claims:

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Colbert thinks Trump may have missed the part of the National Prayer Breakfast where they said "love your enemy":

Seth Meyers broke down Trump’s post-impeachment rant:

Our video team made a side-by-side comparison of what Trump said yesterday with what Bill Clinton said after his acquittal by the Senate in 1999. Clinton said he was "profoundly sorry." Trump said "it was all bullshit." Trump spoke for an hour and two minutes. Clinton spoke for one minute and 36 seconds:

And Trevor Noah turned Trump's State of the Union into a telenovela: